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James Dorris oral history interview

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Material Information

Title:
James Dorris oral history interview
Series Title:
Concentration camp liberators oral history project
Uniform Title:
Holocaust & genocide studies oral history projects
Physical Description:
1 sound file (43 min.) : digital, MPEG4 file + ;
Language:
English
Creator:
Dorris, James, 1924-
Hirsh, Michael, 1943-
University of South Florida Libraries -- Holocaust & Genocide Studies Center
University of South Florida -- Library. -- Special & Digital Collections. -- Oral History Program
Publisher:
University of South Florida Tampa Library
Place of Publication:
Tampa, Fla
Publication Date:

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
Concentration camps -- History -- Germany   ( lcsh )
Ardennes, Battle of the, 1944-1945 -- Personal narratives   ( lcsh )
World War, 1939-1945 -- Concentration camps -- Germany   ( lcsh )
World War, 1939-1945 -- Concentration camps -- Liberation   ( lcsh )
World War, 1939-1945 -- Atrocities   ( lcsh )
World War, 1939-1945 -- Personal narratives, American   ( lcsh )
World War, 1939-1945 -- Veterans -- United States   ( lcsh )
Veterans -- Interviews -- United States   ( lcsh )
Genocide   ( lcsh )
Crimes against humanity   ( lcsh )
Genre:
Oral history   ( local )
Online audio   ( local )
Oral history.   ( local )
Online audio.   ( local )
interview   ( marcgt )

Notes

Summary:
This is an oral history interview with Holocaust concentration camp liberator James Dorris. Dorris was a member of the 42nd Infantry Division, which liberated Dachau on April 29, 1945. The division arrived in France in December 1944 and was organized into Task Force Linden, participating in the Battle of the Bulge, the Rhineland Campaign, and the Central Europe Campaign. While on their way to Munich, they were redirected to Dachau, along with the 45th Infantry Division. In this interview, Dorris describes entering the camp, where he was placed on guard duty to keep the former prisoners from leaving; one of them gave Dorris a cigarette butt that he had been saving. They stayed in the camp that night, sleeping in one of the guards' houses, and left the next morning for Munich.
Venue:
Interview conducted June 18, 2008.
Preferred Citation:
The Liberators: America's Witnesses to the Holocaust (New York: Bantam Books, 2010) and Concentration Camp Liberators Oral History Project, University of South Florida Libraries, ©2010 Michael Hirsh.
Statement of Responsibility:
interviewed by Michael Hirsh.
General Note:
This interview was conducted as research for The Liberators: America's Witnesses to the Holocaust / Michael Hirsch (New York: Bantam Books, 2010).

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of South Florida Library
Holding Location:
University of South Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
aleph - 021797211
oclc - 587309199
usfldc doi - C65-00030
usfldc handle - c65.30
System ID:
SFS0022086:00001


This item is only available as the following downloads:


Full Text
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This is an oral history interview with Holocaust concentration camp liberator James Dorris. Dorris was a member of the 42nd Infantry Division, which liberated Dachau on April 29, 1945. The division arrived in France in December 1944 and was organized into Task Force Linden, participating in the Battle of the Bulge, the Rhineland Campaign, and the Central Europe Campaign. While on their way to Munich, they were redirected to Dachau, along with the 45th Infantry Division. In this interview, Dorris describes entering the camp, where he was placed on guard duty to keep the former prisoners from leaving; one of them gave Dorris a cigarette butt that he had been saving. They stayed in the camp that night, sleeping in one of the guards' houses, and left the next morning for Munich.
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The Liberators: America's Witnesses to the Holocaust (New York: Bantam Books, 2010) and Concentration Camp Liberators Oral History Project, University of South Florida Libraries, 2010 Michael Hirsh.
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Transcripts, excerpts, or any component of this interview may be used without the author's express written permission only for educational or research purposes. No portion of the interview audio or text may be broadcast, cablecast, webcast, or distributed without the author's express written permission.
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PAGE 1

COPYRIGHT NOTICE This Oral History is copyrighted by the University of South Florida Libraries Oral History Program on behalf of the Board of Trustees of the University of South Florida. Copyright, 201, University of South Florida. All rights, reserved. This oral history may be used for research, instruction, and private study under the provisions of the Fair Use. Fair Use is a provision of the United States Copyright Law (United States Code, Title 17, section 107), which allows limited use of copyrighted materials under certain conditions. Fair Use limits the amount of material that may be used. For all other permissions and requests, contact the UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA LIBRARIES ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at the University of South Florida, 4202 E. Fowler Avenue, LIB 122, Tampa, FL 33620.


xml version 1.0 encoding UTF-8 transcript
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time 00:00:0.0
text Michael Hirsh: Can you give me your full name and spell it for me, please?
1
00:00:5.3
James Dorris: Spell my name?
2
00:00:6.2
MH: Yes.
3
00:00:6.9
JD: D-o-r-r-i-s.
4
00:00:9.4
MH: And your first name is James?
5
00:00:10.3
JD: James, yes.
6
00:00:11.0
MH: And whats your date of birth?
7
00:00:12.4
JD: November 8, 1924.
8
00:00:14.5
MH: And you were with the 42nd Infantry Division at Dachau.
9
00:00:19.3
JD: Right.
10
00:00:19.9
MH: Tell me a little about what you were doing before the Army.
11
00:00:23.9
JD: Well, Id gone to university.
12
00:00:26.7
MH: Which one?
13
00:00:28.1
JD: University of Chattanooga. I was a freshman, and as soon as my freshman year was finished, I went into the Army.
14
00:00:36.4
MH: You volunteered, or they drafted you?
15
00:00:38.3
JD: No, they drafted me.
16
00:00:39.1
MH: Whered they send you?
17
00:00:42.4
JD: Fort McClellan, Alabama. And then from there, I went into the ASTP, Army Specialized Training Program, up at Fargo, North Dakota. I went to the University of North Dakota for about five months.
18
00:01:1.4
MH: What were you studying?
19
00:01:2.4
JD: Engineering. And then they closed ASTP, and we all went back to the infantry.
20
00:01:11.2
MH: Whered you go?
21
00:01:13.4
JD: Camp Gruber, Oklahoma.
22
00:01:15.2
MH: What year and month was this, do you guess?
23
00:01:18.9
JD: That I went to Oklahoma?
24
00:01:22.1
MH: Yeah.
25
00:01:22.8
JD: That mustve been March oflets seeforty-four [1944].
26
00:01:27.6
MH: Forty-four [1944]? And was the 42nd at Camp Gruber?
27
00:01:31.2
JD: Yes.
28
00:01:32.0
MH: So, what happens from then?
29
00:01:35.2
JD: We had some more training, and then we went overseas. We landed at Marseilles, France, and that was the first part of December 1944. Then we went up to Strasbourg and from there, a little town of Ingersheim, and thats where we ended up in the Battle of the Bulge.
30
00:02:3.6
MH: What was your unit at that point, your company and regiment?
31
00:02:7.0
JD: It was Company A, 222nd Regiment of the 42nd Division.
32
00:02:13.2
MH: And you were in the Bulge?
33
00:02:15.9
JD: Yes.
34
00:02:16.8
MH: Was that your first heavy combat?
35
00:02:19.5
JD: Yes, it was. We had moved into this little town, and the people we relieved said, Oh, youre lucky; we havent seen a German in a week. That night, they hit us: tanks and infantry. And from then onof course, it was bitterly coldwell, then we were in the Battle of the Bulge.
36
00:02:46.0
MH: Were you dressed for the cold weather?
37
00:02:48.3
JD: No. No, we just hadwell, I hadsomewhere along the line, we had an overcoat, but we lost that pretty quick, because you cant do much running and fighting with an overcoat on. So, we dropped them somewhere, and we just hadwell, I had two pair of underwear and a wool shirt and a khaki shirt, and then my fatigue jacket. And then, I had wool pants and fatigue pants, and a wool thing under my helmet.
38
00:03:39.5
MH: Did you have gloves and shoe pacs?
39
00:03:42.4
JD: Yeah, I had gloves, but at first we didnt have shoe pacs. We didnt get them until aboutit seemed like maybe a month after we were in it.
40
00:03:55.9
MH: Tell me a bit about the Bulge. What happened when they hit you?
41
00:04:0.9
JD: We were pushed out of that little town and dropped back. There was part of the Siegfried Line along thereSiegfried or Maginot; right now, I cant tell you for sure.
42
00:04:17.2
MH: Were you still in France, or were you into Germany?
43
00:04:19.5
JD: We were still in France. We were in thesewell, they were pillboxes. We held on there for a couple of weeks, and we were kind of a point out into thewell, the lines had fallen back around us, so they gave us word to fall back, and we fell back. I cant remember the town now, but anyway, we fell back and built up a new line and got replacements and ammunition and everything, which wed used up. And then we went back into thewe were there for about a week, getting replacements and so forth, and then we went back into the line.
44
00:05:16.2
MH: At this point in the war, did you know anything about the concentration camps?
45
00:05:20.2
JD: No, Id never heard of them. In fact, the first time I heard of them when we were told we were gonna take one. I thought it was just a prison.
46
00:05:30.7
MH: So, you pulled back, you got reinforcements, you got resupplied. Then what happens?
47
00:05:39.1
JD: Well, we went back into the line, and lets see. We fought in Wrzburg and over to Nuremberg, all the little towns in between, and then we headed south; our destination was Munich, and we were almost there. They told us the night before that we were going to take a concentration camp the next day, instead. We were supposed to hit Munich, but instead, we went to Dachau.
48
00:06:16.5
MH: When they got you together and told you, who was telling you this?
49
00:06:19.4
JD: Just our company officers and noncoms [noncommissioned officers].
50
00:06:27.5
MH: So, what do they say?
51
00:06:29.0
JD: All they told us was we were going to take a concentration camp, and we had no idea what that was. I just pictured it as some kind of prison. We were riding tanks until we got close to Dachau. We got off the tanks, and there was awe were up on a hill, so then we got off and formed a line. Well, first we started down this main roadI think they called it SS Strae, I believethis big wide road leading to the camp, and we were marching single file, one file on each side of the road. We were going down this hill, and all of a sudden, we could smell the crematory. And immediately, I realized what it was. It was a horrible, horrible odor that was so bad that first I tried not to breathe. You cant go very long doing that, so finally I started breathing as lightly as I could until I more or less got used to it.
52
00:07:50.6
MH: Was there any conversation between the guys?
53
00:07:52.8
JD: Yeah. Whats this horrible odor? Then we just continued on. When we got up to the camp, there was this train of forty boxcars that had headedthey were on a track just outside the camp, and they were headed to the gate into the camp.
54
00:08:17.5
MH: How close were you to the train as you were coming up upon it?
55
00:08:20.2
JD: Well, we walked right next to it. When we got up to it, the cars had beenthe doors had been pulled open, and bodies had fallen out onto the street, onto the pavement. We could see thatwell, we heard later what had happened: the guards went in with machine guns. These people were supposed to have been in those cars for nine days without food or water, so a lot of them had died just fromthey were in bad condition when they were put in there. So, when they got there, a lot of them had already died, and the guards just threw the doors open and machine gunned anybody that was still alive.
56
00:09:9.0
MH: Whats that do to you, to see something like that? Youve been in war, youve been in combat, youve seen guys die, but I dont know that youve seen anything like this.
57
00:09:15.5
JD: We had never seen people in the condition that these people were. They were starved, you know, just skin and bones, and just looking at them made you sick. And we found
58
00:09:32.2
MH: Sick enough that youd start throwing up?
59
00:09:33.9
JD: Well, I didnt, but some of them did, seeing them just falling out into the street. The cars would just be people piled up on top of each other, and these that had fallen out when they opened the door. To pass forty cars like that, you just couldnt imagine what that was like.
60
00:10:2.3
MH: What are your officers saying to you?
61
00:10:4.3
JD: They werent saying anything. Everybody was just amazed at what we saw.
62
00:10:9.1
MH: What was your rank at that point?
63
00:10:10.6
JD: I was a PFC [private first class]. I was a BAR [Browning Automatic Rifle] man.
64
00:10:14.2
MH: So, what do you want to do at that point?
65
00:10:19.6
JD: We were just furious, of course, thinking, Who could do things like this? We got to the main gate, and it was desertedexcept for these huge German police dogs, one on each side of the gate, chained up.
66
00:10:38.6
MH: Inside or outside the gate?
67
00:10:40.1
JD: Outside, on the side we approached. We walked up to them, and they were just going crazy trying to get at us. And one of my buddiesa BAR is too much, to shoot a dog with that. He had a little pistol, and he shot the dog in the head, and he said, Damn, the bullet just bounced off his hard head. All he did was blink, then he came back at us again. So, he shot him again in the eye. Well, that did it, of course. And then on the other side, somebody did the same thing. But we went in the gate
68
00:11:22.4
MH: Was the gate locked or open?
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00:11:24.4
JD: You know I believe it wouldve been pushed open.
70
00:11:29.3
MH: Are you seeing people on the inside at this point?
71
00:11:32.6
JD: No, we hadnt seen anyone inside. But when we went in, our lieutenant told me that there was first this high concrete wall, about twelve feet high, and then they had towers where people had stayed with machine guns. And he told meinside was this high fence that, I think, had been charged with electricity. It was a wire fence. He said, Go down between the fence and the wall, and dont let anybody out. And the rest of them were going on into the camp.
72
00:12:17.8
I went down about 100 yards, and there was a mana body lying there between the fence and the wall. He was inwell, he looked like a rag doll thatd been thrown down, arms and legs all different positions; one of his eyes was laying out on his cheek where hed been beaten so badly. I couldnt imagine how this body got there, unless theyd thrown it over the fence. But anyway, right at that point, I looked inside, and there was a long row of naked bodies lying on the ground, about maybe fifty feet from me, and on the other side, towards the prison guards houses was about 200, 250 prisoners standing there, just looking at me.
73
00:13:27.8
MH: What were they wearing?
74
00:13:28.7
JD: All kinds of rags thatsupposedly uniforms, prison uniforms, and some of them in real bad shape. And these people were just standing there, not saying a word, doing nothing but looking at me.
75
00:13:47.2
MH: And theyre on the other side of the wire fence.
76
00:13:48.9
JD: Yeah, and the other side are these bodies.
77
00:13:51.7
MH: Were the bodies like they had been laid out there?
78
00:13:56.3
JD: Yeah. My idea was they had laid them there to take to the crematory. Theyd taken the clothes off of them because it were still pretty cold, and the prisonerswhen somebody died, they wanted whatever clothes they had that were any good to try to put on themselves. So, they took the clothes and just had the naked bodies lying there.
79
00:14:24.0
Right about that time, one of them guys jumped over the bodies and ranitd be towards meand leaned over and picked uplike he was picking something up off the groundand held it up to him. I couldnt see anything there to pick up, but he acted like that and held it up to him and started running with it, back towards the houses. Well, three more guys left the group and started chasing him, and they tackled him and knocked him down and were on top of him, kicking him and hitting him, trying to get his hands open to see what he had.
80
00:15:12.7
Well, I thought, Theyre gonna beat this guy to death. Gosh, theyre all crazy, going through what all I imagined them having gone through. And I thought, Theyre gonna beat this man to death. I started to fire a burst over their heads, but I could see the bullets would go into the prison houses. I thought, Well, theres probably people in there, and Ill be shooting them, so I didnt do anything. I just stood there and looked, and I thought, This is what hell is like. Thats the only thing I could think. And in my conditionmental conditionI thought I even saw the devil coming out of the ground. It was all so horrible, thats all I could think of.
81
00:16:1.7
MH: Whatd the devil look like?
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00:16:2.9
JD: Hes a horrible-looking man with a real red face and a real largeand it justI was imagining all this.
83
00:16:17.9
MH: Right. Of course.
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00:16:18.5
JD: I looked up in the sky and said, God, get me out of this place. Well, right at that point, when I looked back down, another prisoner had left and come over to the fence where I was, and he said, Haben Sie eine Zigarette? Do you have a cigarette? Well, I thoughtIve got four or five packs on me, but seeing all those people, I thought if I bring those out, I dont have enough to give all of them, and I thought Id have a riot on my hands, so I said no. He said, Einen Moment, and he turned around and ran back towards the houses.
85
00:17:4.3
Well, then I looked back where these people were on top of that man, and theyve gotten his hands open. There was nothing in them, so in disgust they got up off of him and went back with the other prisoners. Well, by that time, the man that had run off past me for a cigarette ran back to the fence. He stuck his hand through the wire fence, and he had a little tiny rusty can, took the top of off it. Inside was a cigarette butt aboutoh, maybe three-quarters of an inch long. It was all water stained. He handed that to me, and he saidI cant remember the exact German words, but, This is in thanks for rescuing us.
86
00:17:57.1
Well, that just really got to me. Tears came to my eyes, and I had a complete different change from the way I had felt just two minutes before, and I thought, Im really doing some good here. And I felt that was God answering my prayer, because I felt like IdI was really despairing. When I said, God, get me out of here, and this fellow coming over and giving me that cigarette butt that hed been savingthat was his treasure. No telling how long hed been saving that.
87
00:18:37.9
MH: The fence was not electrified?
88
00:18:40.4
JD: It hadnt beenit wasnt then, because I guess somebody had thrown the switch and cut it off. But I feel sure it had been.
89
00:18:50.1
MH: What do you do at that point when hes handing you that can?
90
00:18:53.3
JD: Well, I took it and thanked him profusely, shook his hand. I looked out at the other prisoners, who were still all standing there, and I waved to them, and they all waved and started smiling and laughing and talking. They were justthat just broke the ice. And then theyre looking at each other and talking, and they waved back to me. And this guy that handed me the cigarette butt was standing there smiling. I shook his hand, like I said, and thanked him, and he turned around and went back into the prison.
91
00:19:34.8
MH: Any idea where he was from?
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00:19:36.3
JD: No; like I say, he left right then.
93
00:19:40.8
MH: Right, but there was nothing on his uniform that would have told you?
94
00:19:42.9
JD: No, no. He spoke German, and I had no idea aboutanything about his story. But then, later on, I was relieved
95
00:19:55.4
MH: When this is going on, what are you hearing from other parts of the camp?
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00:19:59.6
JD: Well, I could hear some shots being fired off in the camp. And I dontwell, my buddies told me later that they had chased some of the guards, captured them. One of my good friends told me that he and another fellow had come to a small building, and the prisoners were just all crowded around it, trying to get in. And he and his friend got them aside, didnt know what was inside the building, but when they opened the door, they told me that it was the police chief from Dachau. All of his clothes had been stripped off of him, and the prisoners were trying to get to him and beat him to death, I guess. But they got him and escorted him through this wild bunch, and turned him into some of the officers. But that night, we went to the house where the guards had lived.
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00:21:14.3
MH: This is outside the wall?
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00:21:17.7
JD: No, its inside the camp.
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00:21:19.6
MH: Inside the camp?
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00:21:20.8
JD: Yeah.
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00:21:21.3
MH: Okay. How far in from the main gate, would you say?
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00:21:24.6
JD: It mustve been, oh, seventy-five yards, something like that. Then this building wasit seemed like it was just in with all the other buildings. Our cooks that had come, in the meantime, and they cooked us a big meal in the guards house.
103
00:21:51.5
MH: How do you deal with cooking a big meal when theres thousands of starving people all around you?
104
00:21:57.4
JD: Well, I didnt know how they were handling that. I went in the place, and this is what I saw.
105
00:22:4.0
MH: Tell me what you saw when you walked in.
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00:22:6.5
JD: Well, it wasthe building had a nice kitchen it in, and a big part of it had bunks. In fact, that night I slept in one of the bunks. And after we ateof course, wed had a hard day of itwe went in and picked out different bunks. I picked out one thatwell, they all looked like maybe the guards had been awakened, hearing that we were coming, and theyd just thrown the covers back and jumped up and took off to resist us or whatever they did. I remember getting in that bunk and thinking, What kind of guy was laying here in this bunk last night? I thought about that for quite a while. But that was the end of it.
107
00:23:7.6
MH: So, how many hours of sleep were you able to get?
108
00:23:12.9
JD: It seemed like we got probably six or seven hours. Next morning, we were awakened, and then we went back to taking Munich.
109
00:23:25.2
MH: So, you left the camp the next morning.
110
00:23:28.2
JD: Yeah.
111
00:23:28.8
MH: Were there other
112
00:23:29.4
JD: Another outfit had moved in, bringing food and everything for the prisoners, and doctors. All we did was go out and got on our tanks and took off to Munich.
113
00:23:43.6
MH: Did you have any opportunity, once you were inside the camp, to try and talk to these prisoners?
114
00:23:48.0
JD: No, no, none. Well, Id seen about all I wanted to see.
115
00:23:53.2
MH: So, you didnt go touring around the camp, then.
116
00:23:56.4
JD: No, no. We had had a hard day of it.
117
00:24:0.0
MH: Sending you in there with a BAR is not real practical.
118
00:24:3.9
JD: Well, (laughs) everybody had rifles, and I had my BAR.
119
00:24:8.2
MH: Did anybody talk to you about the shooting that was going on?
120
00:24:16.0
JD: Yeah, my buddies told me that they had come across some of the guards. I dont know if they were trying to resist them. Some of them were so upset that they just killed guards. And our colonel stopped it, Col. Fallenz.
121
00:24:35.4
MH: Colonel?
122
00:24:36.7
JD: I cant think of his firstWalter Fallenz.
123
00:24:40.9
MH: Fallenz?
124
00:24:42.1
JD: Yeah. F-a-l-l-e-n-z, I believe.
125
00:24:44.7
MH: What are the guys talking about at this point? Youre having dinner there. Was that the first hot meal in a long time?
126
00:24:53.0
JD: Yeah, yeah.
127
00:24:54.5
MH: Thats weird, to have the first hot meal inside Dachau.
128
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JD: Yeah, it was.
129
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MH: What do the guys talk about when theyre sitting around, eating?
130
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JD: Everybody was just kind of numb from what wed seen. You couldnt describeI mean, everybody had seen something so bad that they just didnt really want to talk. We just sat there, eating, not saying a whole lot.
131
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MH: Do you remember what they served you?
132
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JD: No, I cant remember at all. It was just hot food, and thats the first wed had in quite a while.
133
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MH: What was the weather like?
134
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JD: It was still pretty cool. We hadwell, pretty much the clothes that we got to France in I was still wearing when the war was over. I did get, I think twice, maybeI know oncethat we were pulled back off the lines, and they had put canvas up in a big square, just out in the open, and they had crates on the ground. And theyd put showersnot stalls, but places that squirted hot water out, and we went in there and took showers. Of course, the wind was blowing under the canvas and over and through, so we didnt spend a whole lot of time, but we did get clean underwear.
135
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MH: That was before or after Dachau?
136
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JD: That was before. That was maybe halfway through.
137
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MH: Ah, okay. So, the next day, about what time they wake you up? Do you remember?
138
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JD: Oh, it was just about dawn.
139
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MH: And then what? They say, Everybody out?
140
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JD: We loaded onto thewe got something to eat and loaded onto the tanks. Munich was aboutit seemed like about fifteen miles away.
141
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MH: Was that, what, the 20th Armored?
142
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JD: I think it was.
143
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MH: So, youre fixing for a battle in Munich.
144
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JD: Yeah. But we were surprised when we got to the city. The people were lined up on both sides, cheering us, and we were completely taken aback by that. That was the first time wed had that happen. They were giving us bottles of champagne and throwing flowers on us.
145
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MH: These are Germans?
146
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JD: Germans, yeah. They were happy to see us.
147
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MH: Thats got to mess with your head after what youd just seen.
148
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JD: It sure did. And we were wondering how much they knew about what was going on out there at Dachau.
149
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MH: Did you ever have a chance to ask?
150
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JD: No, I never did get to talk to anybody.
151
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MH: How long are you at Munich?
152
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JD: We just went through that day, I believe, and moved on tosome of the towns wed meet a little bit of resistance, but most of the places, they were taking off when theyd see us coming. And we were about thirty miles fromwhats the pass into Italy? Darn, I cant quite say it. But wed just moved into this little town, and our kitchen had moved up again. They were going to give us a meal.
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Three of my buddies and I, wed moved into a house and were sitting thereI was sitting on a bed, and they were sitting across from me. And this young fellowhe had been a replacementhad found a pistol. Were sitting there talking. Hes got this .38 revolver, sitting right next to me, and he gave the chamber a twirl and pulled the trigger and shot me through the leg.
154
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MH: Oh, no!
155
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JD: (laughs) So, I had decidedwhen I got that little can with the cigarette butt, I thought, Ill keep this the rest of my life. Well, it was in my fatigue pocket. So, when I went to the hospital, of course they took all my clothes, and at the time, I didnt think of trying to get that. I was more concerned with my leg. And I never saw the cigarette butt again.
156
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MH: When you get shot in the leg by your buddy, I assume you say bad words.
157
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JD: Yeah. (laughs) He said, Did I shoot you? I said, Hell, yes! My pants werehe was so close to me that it burned a big round circle around it, just burned to a crisp from the powder burns and went in the top side and out the bottom, back of my leg.
158
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MH: Had you been hit before that?
159
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JD: Id been hit with shrapnel, yeah.
160
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MH: So, you had your Purple Heart.
161
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JD: Oh, yeah, I already had the Purple Heart.
162
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MH: There was no discussion over whether thats a Purple Heart wound or not?
163
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JD: No, no, that wouldnt qualify as a Purple Heart.
164
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MH: I see. You get that all fixed up, and then what happens?
165
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JD: Well, I was in the hospital about two months with that.
166
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MH: Really? Did it hit the bone?
167
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JD: No, justI dont know how. Right in the center of my leg, but it just missed the bone. He was sitting next to me, so it was at a slant, and he just missed the bone.
168
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MH: Did he at least give you the gun to keep?
169
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JD: (laughs) No. Well, my buddies were so upset with him; they told him I lost my leg. And hewhen I came back to the company, first thing he did was run up to me and pull up my pants leg to see if I still had a leg. (laughs)
170
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MH: (laughs) Oh, jeez.
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JD: Butoh, the day afterthis was the day before the war was over. So, when I came out of the operation the next day, they saidthe guy laying in the bed next to me said, The war is over, and I said, Great. But anyway
172
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MH: So, they tell you that youre going to have to go to Japan?
173
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JD: We thought we would. We didnt get anything like that from our officers, but everybody assumed thats where our next destination would be.
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MH: Whatgo ahead.
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JD: I was just going to say we were in Linz and Salzburg, and then we ended up in Vienna. But usually our job would bewell, in Linz, I lived in a prison with 5,000 German prisoners. About five or six of us lived right in the prison with them. So, if we had to go out to get supplies or whatever, one of us would go with our rifle in the truck that  the German was driving, and do whatever we had to do. But we lived right in the prison with them, and I did go to the barbershop there. German prisoners were running the barbershop. I was laying there getting a shave with a straight razor, and all of a sudden it hit me, Damn, I was probably shooting at this guy a month ago, and here he is, shaving me with a straight razor. I didnt do that again.
176
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MH: Did you ever confront the German prisoners about what you saw at Dachau?
177
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JD: I did talk to them some, and most of them acted like they didnt know anything about it, and I dont think they did. Most of these were just ordinary German soldiers, just doing what they were supposed to do. I got to be pretty good friends with some of them.
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One fellow lived pretty close to there, and I would let him stop and see his sister. We went to her house at lunchtime one time, and she gave me a meal; and went toI thought it was his father. He mustve been pretty well off, because he had a beautiful place and they had a butler, and a big table was set for me. And the butler took my rifle and helmet, sat them in the corner, and then served me my meal, and his father sat at the other end of the table. Of course, I didnt know that much German that I could carry on very much conversation, but they treated me royally.
179
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MH: Interesting. How long after that before you got shipped home?
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JD: Lets see, that was in the summer. I didnt come home tillI started on the way home in February of forty-five [1945].
181
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MH: February forty-six [1946].
182
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JD: Forty-six [1946], yeah.
183
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MH: So, whend you get out of the Army?
184
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JD: As soon as I got home. I was out March 22, I think it was.
185
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MH: And you went back to Chattanooga?
186
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JD: Yeah.
187
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MH: Then what do you do?
188
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JD: Well, I went back to university, and graduated.
189
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MH: Whatd you have a degree in?
190
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JD: Engineering. I went to work at Tennessee Copper Company in Copperhill, Tennessee. And then I came to Chattanooga, worked at an asphalt manufacturing company, and ended up owning my company in Cleveland, Tennessee.
191
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MH: In Cleveland, Tennessee?
192
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JD: Mm-hm.
193
00:35:8.2
MH: How long did you run that?
194
00:35:9.6
JD: Twenty-five years. We built equipment used by asphalt plants, air pollution control equipment, things like that.
195
00:35:19.3
MH: Did you marry?
196
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JD: Yeah. Married and had seven children.
197
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MH: Seven children. How many grandchildren?
198
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JD: Eighteen.
199
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MH: Eighteen!
200
00:35:28.6
JD: Uh-huh.
201
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MH: Ive got four and I cant keep up with them.
202
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JD: (laughs)
203
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MH: And you retired when?
204
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JD: Ninety-two [1992].
205
00:35:38.3
MH: Ninety-two [1992]?
206
00:35:39.2
JD: Uh-huh.
207
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MH: So, did what you had seen in Dachau ever come back to you after the war?
208
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JD: Oh, yeah. I think about it every once in a while.
209
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MH: Ever keep you awake?
210
00:35:51.4
JD: No, I havent had that problem, but I sure cant forget it.
211
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MH: Were you a religious person before the war?
212
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JD: Yes. Im a Catholic. Ive been religious all my life.
213
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MH: Did the experience at Dachau change that at all?
214
00:36:11.0
JD: Well, it made me a little bit stronger Christian, I think.
215
00:36:15.7
MH: When you came backI mean, it didnt cause you to question God?
216
00:36:22.4
JD: Oh, no.
217
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MH: No? People are affected differently by those kinds of things.
218
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JD: Yeah. You wonder how things like that happen, but they do.
219
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MH: Did you ever have a chance to talk to school kids about what you saw?
220
00:36:38.5
JD: Oh, yeah.
221
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MH: Whens the first timewell, first let me ask you, whens the first time you told your family about what youd seen?
222
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JD: You know, I dont think I told themI didnt even tell my wife for several years after we were married. I just couldnt talk about it, I guess, at first.
223
00:37:3.3
MH: What let you talk about it the first time?
224
00:37:6.9
JD: Well, lets see. I think we mustve seen something on TV or in a movie about something like that, and I started telling about it.
225
00:37:22.8
MH: Did she think you were making it up?
226
00:37:26.8
JD: No, no, she knew I was telling the truth. She had seen, you know, things about it.
227
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MH: But she didnt know her husband had been in the middle of it.
228
00:37:37.3
JD: No.
229
00:37:38.0
MH: When did you tell your kids?
230
00:37:41.7
JD: Well, about the same time. I began talking about it, telling them and my friends.
231
00:37:53.4
MH: Whens the first time you went and talked to school kids?
232
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JD: Lets see. Well, I went to the University ofoh, shes in charge of that at the University of Tennessee. Ive got her name somewhere. Anyway, she contacted me to make a talk over at Dollywood, I believe it was.
233
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MH: At Dollywood?
234
00:38:30.8
JD: Lets see. Whats the little town near there, where Dollywood is [Pigeon Forge]?
235
00:38:38.2
MH: What, Nashville?
236
00:38:42.2
JD: No, no, itsdoggone it. Ive gone blank.
237
00:38:52.1
MH: Thats okay. Just tell me about the experience.
238
00:38:55.3
JD: I talked about it there.
239
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MH: How old were the kids?
240
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JD: Most of thesesome of my grandchildren were there. It was announcedI think it waswell, I believe it mustve been the year 200
241
00:39:15.0
MH: Two thousand.
242
00:39:15.6
JD: Two thousand, I mean. They had some kind of celebration. The university put that on, and I went there and made the talk. And then since then, Ive talked to the University of [Tennessee at] Chattanooga and the university at Middle Tennessee [State University].
243
00:39:36.7
MH: Whats that experience like, trying to tell people the things you saw?
244
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JD: Well, I think most of the people that youre talking to, at this point, have all heard about it. Its not a case of them hearing for the first time. They justsome of them have questions about it. Ive talked towell, my last talk was to the seventh grade over at St. Judes grammar school. And Ive talked to the eighth grade at Our Lady of Perpetual Help, and just different groups.
245
00:40:19.5
MH: Whats their reaction to you?
246
00:40:22.9
JD: Well, theyre all shocked to hear what it was like. I mean, theyve heard things like that before, but someone that was actually there makes a bigger impression.
247
00:40:37.3
MH: Can I askbefore you went in the Army, whatd you look like? How tall were you, how heavy were you?
248
00:40:44.2
JD: Well, I was skinny as a rail. (laughs) I ended up six [feet] three [inches], and I think I was just about 145 [pounds] when I went in. And soon as I got into the Army training and all that, I began putting on weight and got up to 165, I think, in basic training195 now.
249
00:41:23.3
MH: Your wifes cooking is good?
250
00:41:27.1
JD: Oh, yeah. (laughs)
251
00:41:28.0
MH: Thats good. Anything else that you think would be important to tell me?
252
00:41:34.8
JD: Right offhand, I cant think of anything.
253
00:41:44.4
MH: I meant to ask you, do you have any pictures of yourself from World War II?
254
00:41:49.1
JD: Yeah.
255
00:41:50.3
MH: Is it possible for you towhat Id like is a good picture of you from World War II and a picture of you now. If you can send the prints to me, Ill scan them on the computer and then send them right back to you.
256
00:42:0.6
JD: Okay. Ive got macular degeneration; I need to get myIm sitting at my desk, where Ive got a machine that blows everything up. Thats where I read and write. Let me get something that I can get your address.
257
00:42:16.1
MH: Do you have e-mail?
258
00:42:16.9
JD: I did, but my sight got so bad that I just quit. Okay, whats your name again?
259
00:42:27.5
MH: My name is Michael Hirsh, H-i-r-s-h.
260
00:42:31.1
JD: H-i-r
261
00:42:33.6
MH: S-h.
262
00:42:34.5
JD: Okay.
263
00:42:35.5
MH: If you could find, you know, a good picture of you from World War II
264
00:42:41.3
JD: Sure.
265
00:42:42.2
MH: Something that looks like youre actually in the Army and not in a photo studio.
266
00:42:45.2
JD: (laughs). Okay. Well, Ive got one that was made over in Austria. Im holding a mess kit and Im in uniform.
267
00:42:55.8
MH: Okay, that works.
268
00:42:56.7
JD: (laughs) Ill see what all Ive got.
269
00:42:59.2
MH: Okay, and if you send them to me Ill send themIll scan them and send them right back to you, along with a release that lets me use them.
270
00:43:5.9
JD: Okay.
271
00:43:6.8
MH: Okay. Whats your wifes name?
272
00:43:8.0
JD: Charlotte.
273
00:43:9.2
MH: Charlotte, okay. Thank you very, very much, Mr. Dorris. I sure appreciate your time.
274
00:43:13.2
JD: Im glad to talk with you.
275
00:43:14.9
MH: Okay. Bye-bye.
276
00:43:16.2
JD: Bye.